CEDAR PARK, Texas – A Texas Stars victory would have been one of the biggest robberies of the season.
In fact, the Stars even picking up a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ontario Reign seems like grand larceny.
Ontario dominated the contest. The physical style pushed around a smaller Texas team while Ontario bombed 51 shots on goal in the victory.
Texas’ saving grace was rookie goalie Maxime Lagace. He stopped 48 shots – many through traffic – and helped the Stars salvage a point.
“I just want to give the team a chance to win,” Lagace said. “Regardless of the number of shots. Sometimes games like this keep you going, it’s easier sometimes than just getting 10 shots … I wish that we won the game, but tomorrow we’re back at it.”
In the end, Vincent LoVerde’s overtime goal was the difference.
The Reign captain bombed home his second goal of the night after a dominant overtime performance. Ontario outshot Texas 6-0 in overtime and LoVerde took advantage of a soft spot between the circles for his eighth goal of the season.
“I thought it was just a fabulous game,” Ontario coach Mike Stothers said. “Two good teams. Up and down skating. Good body checking. Just a nice mixture of special teams for both sides. And you know what? It was exciting right down to the end.”
Exciting would be a spot-on analysis after the teams traded last-minute goals to reach overtime.
Sean Backman gave Ontario the lead with 32.4 seconds remaining, seemingly locking up a win for the Reign.
But, Texas countered and drew a power play with 16 seconds remaining and had a 6-on-4 advantage with Lagace pulled for the extra attacker. After failing to convert all game, Jason Dickinson pulled the trigger with 4.7 seconds remaining and beat Peter Budaj to tie the game.
“It was a big point for our guys, and those are good teams for us to play,” Texas coach Derek Laxdal said. “We play a San Diego or Ontario, heavy teams. It really helps with the development of our young players.”
Much earlier Texas, wearing specialty “Pink in the Rink,” jerseys scored on the first shot of the game and Derek Hulak’s tally held more meaning than the typical first-period goal.
Hulak’s mother, Alina, passed away after her battle with breast cancer in 2007. Before each game Hulak inscribes her initials, A.H., onto his stick and he uses that as perspective – no matter how difficult a shift is, it’s nothing compared to the battle his mother endured.
So, when Brendan Ranford feathered a pass to Hulak in the slot and he fired home his 12th goal of the season, it was only fitting that he pointed skyward before celebrating with his teammates.
“The Pink in the Rink weekend is one that’s always near and dear to my heart,” Hulak said. “I lost my mother to a pretty inspiring battle in 2007. And just this past summer I lost my good friend Cody Smuk (to cancer). It’s something (cancer) that I think has affected everyone. So it’s one I always have marked on the calendar.”
The lead didn’t last very long, however.
A little more than three minutes later LoVerde scored on a point shot that went through traffic.
Neither team scored in the second period, but Ontario should have taken the lead.
The Reign fired 18 shots at Lagace and the rookie goalie stopped them all. He made his biggest stop of the period when he snagged a shot through a screen with a picturesque glove save.
Lagace continued to dazzle in the third period and made a sprawling right pad save on Andrew Crescenzi seven minutes into the final stanza.
The Stars put the puck past Peter Budaj with 8:33 remaining, but Stephen Johns’ point blast on the power play rang off the right post.
Notes: The official attendance was 4,142 … Texas had four shots in the first period. It was the fewest the Stars have fired in a single period this season … Ontario went 0-for-5 on the power play, while Texas went 1-for-6 on the power play … Ontario lost defenseman Christian Erhoff in a trade to Chicago on Friday. Kevin Gravel will join Ontario, but isn’t expected to make it Austin before tomorrow’s rematch.
Thank you to Sean Shapiro of Wrong Side of the Red Line for preparing the above article. Shapiro covers the Texas Stars and the AHL for multiple publications including the Austin American-Statesman and The Hockey News. Give him a follow and check out his website.